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UK Government Watch


2020: July-Sept

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Building division...

The government states its position on claims about British history being considered as toxic


Link Here29th September 2020
Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been writing to museums and libraries about policies in the face of claims of British history being now considered as toxic. Dowden explained the Government position::

History is ridden with moral complexity. Statues and other historical objects were created by generations with different perspectives and understandings of right and wrong. Some represent figures who have said or done things which we may find deeply offensive and would not defend today. But though we may now disagree with those who created them or who they represent, they play an important role in teaching us about our past, with all its faults.

It is for this reason that the Government does not support the removal of statues or other similar objects . Historic England, as the Government's adviser on the historic environment, have said that removing difficult and contentious parts of it risks harming our understanding of our collective past. Rather than erasing these objects, we should seek to contextualise or reinterpret them in a way that enables the public to learn about them in their entirety, however challenging this may be. Our aim should be to use them to educate people about all aspects of Britain's complex past, both good and bad.

As set out in your Management Agreements, I would expect Arm's Length Bodies' approach to issues of contested heritage to be consistent with the Government's position. Further, as publicly funded bodies, you should not be taking actions motivated by

activism or politics. The significant support that you receive from the taxpayer is an acknowledgement of the important cultural role you play for the entire country. It is imperative that you continue to act impartially, in line with your publicly funded status, and not in a way that brings this into question. This is especially important as we enter a challenging Comprehensive Spending Review, in which all government spending will rightly be scrutinised.

 

 

Offsite Article: New online harm legislation is a threat to free speech...


Link Here 28th September 2020
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media
There is a problem online and it is causing real harm, but banning language rather than engaging in education sounds like a political fix rather than an actual solution. By Ruth Smeeth, former MP and CEO of Index on Censorship

See article from independent.co.uk

 

 

Are you allowed a sex life under the rule of 6?...

Questions to Matt Hancock about a government law that allows only for those in an 'established relationship' reveal that casual sex is now illegal in the UK


Link Here24th September 2020
The government's latest diktats about the rule of 6 restrictions on social interactions at least allow for an exception to social distancing for those in an 'established relationship' The relevant part of the law reads:

When with people you do not live with, you should also avoid: physical contact; being close and face-to-face; and shouting or singing close to them. You should also avoid crowded areas with lots of people; and touching things that other people have touched.

Where you cannot stay 2 metres apart you should stay more than 1 metre apart, as well as taking extra steps to stay safe. For example:

  • wear a face covering : on public transport and in many indoor spaces, you must wear a face covering by law, unless you are exempt

  • move outdoors, where it is safer and there is more space

  • if indoors, make sure rooms are well ventilated by keeping windows and doors open

You do not need to socially distance from anyone in your household, meaning the people you live with. You also do not need to socially distance from someone you're in an established relationship with , or anyone in your legally-permitted support bubble if you are in one.

This has prompted people to ask if people are allowed to meet for sex if they are in a recently established relationship or if they are allowed to have sex on the first date.

An article from pinknews.co.uk asks whether casual sex hook ups are now banned for 6 months.

Matt Hancock on Sky News refused to answer sensible questions about the definition of 'established relationships' but seemed to conclude that casual sex is now illegal by saying that people should abide by the rules in their letter and their spirit.

 

 

Offsite Article: Censorship is the greatest online harm...


Link Here 24th September 2020
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media
The UK government is planning a shocking clampdown on free speech online. By Radomir Tylecote

See article from spiked-online.com

 

 

Extract: Why is the government pushing unprecedented online censorship?...

Official plans are an authoritarian threat to our freedom of speech, and would prove a nasty surprise to most internet users. By Radomir Tylecote


Link Here 18th September 2020
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media

The UK Government's 'Online Harms' plans will lead to sweeping online censorship unprecedented in a democracy. Some of the harms the plans describe are vague, like unacceptable content and disinformation. The new regulations will prohibit material that may directly or indirectly cause harm even if it is not necessarily illegal.

In other words, the regulator will be empowered to censor lawful content, a huge infringement on our freedoms. The White Paper singled out offensive material, as if giving offense is a harm the public need protection from by the state. In fact, the White Paper does not properly define harm or hate speech, but empowers a future regulator to do so. Failure to define harm means the definition may be outsourced to the most vocal activists who see in the new regulator a chance to ban opinions they don't like.

The government claims its proposals are inspired by Germany's 2017 NetzDG law. But Human Rights Watch has said the law turns private companies into overzealous censors and called on Germany to scrap it. NetzDG's other fans include President Lukashenko of Belarus, who cited it to justify a 2017 clampdown on dissent. Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party cited NetzDG as the model for its internet law. So did Venezuela. Chillingly, the plans bear a striking similarity to some of Beijing's internet censorship policies. The Cyberspace Administration of China censors rumours because they cause social harms.

 

 

A consultation on challenging men's demand for prostitution...

Scottish government consults on how to demonise men for buying sex in an aggressively feminist and incomprehensible jargon filled man hating diatribe claimed to be a consultation document


Link Here 13th September 2020
Full story: Sex Work in Scotland...Bills to ban and to decriminalise sex work
The Scottish government writes:

Prostitution is a form of commercial sexual exploitation. Commercial sexual exploitation persists as a result of how women are viewed by society.

The Scottish Government's definition of gender based violence is clearly set out in Equally Safe, Scotland's strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and girls:

Gender based violence is a function of gender inequality, and an abuse of male power and privilege. It takes the form of actions that result in physical, sexual and psychological harm or suffering to women and children, or affront to their human dignity, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. It is men who predominantly carry out such violence, and women who are predominantly the victims of such violence. By referring to violence as 'gender based' this definition highlights the need to understand violence within the context of women's and girl's subordinate status in society. Such violence cannot be understood, therefore, in isolation from the norms, social structure and gender roles within the community, which greatly influence women's vulnerability to violence

Equally Safe Priority 4 states the Scottish Government's priority to ensure men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls and perpetrators of such violence receive a robust and effective response. This violence includes the violence perpetrated by men in relation to acts of commercial sexual exploitation, of which prostitution is one aspect.

The consultation is being taken forward under Equally Safe and fulfils the 2019-20 Programme for Government commitment to consult on approaches to challenge men's demand for prostitution, continue to support work to reduce the harms associated with commercial sexual exploitation and help women to exit prostitution.

The aim of the consultation is to gather views on how best to challenge men's demand for prostitution in Scotland, reducing the harms associated with prostitution and supporting women involved to exit. The consultation paper invites views from a wide range of readers including key stakeholders, statutory partners, those who work in the sector to challenge men's demand for prostitution, support women and those who may have lived experience to help inform the development of future approaches to prostitution in Scotland.

The consultation closes 10th December 2020

 

 

Insulting law...

The Law Commission is consulting on changing the much abused 'malicious communications' law that is used to prosecute internet insults


Link Here11th September 2020
Full story: Trivial Insults and Jokes...Authorities persecuting insulting comments on Facebook and Twitter

Reform of the law is needed to protect victims from harmful online behaviour including abusive messages, cyber-flashing, pile-on harassment, and the malicious sharing of information known to be false. The Law Commission is consulting on proposals to improve the protection afforded to victims by the criminal law, while at the same time provide better safeguards for freedom of expression.

In our Consultation Paper launched on 11 September 2020, we make a number of proposals for reform to ensure that the law is clearer and effectively targets serious harm and criminality arising from online abuse. This is balanced with the need to better protect the right to freedom of expression.

The proposals include:

  • A new offence to replace the communications offences (the Malicious Communications Act 1988 (MCA 1988) and the Communications Act 2003 (CA 2003)), to criminalise behaviour where a communication would likely cause harm.

    • This would cover emails, social media posts and WhatsApp messages, in addition to pile-on harassment (when a number of different individuals send harassing communications to a victim).

    • This would include communication sent over private networks such as Bluetooth or a local intranet, which are not currently covered under the CA 2003.

    • The proposals include introduction of the requirement of proof of likely harm. Currently, neither proof of likely harm nor proof of actual harm are required under the existing communications offences.

  • Cyber-flashing -- the unsolicited sending of images or video recordings of one's genitals -- should be included as a sexual offence under section 66 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This would ensure that additional protections for victims are available.

  • Raising the threshold for false communications so that it would only be an offence if the defendant knows the post is false, they are intending to cause non-trivial emotional, psychological, or physical harm, and if they have no excuse.

The consultation period will run until 18 December 2020.

 

 

Hating free speech...

Nicola Sturgeon acknowledges significant criticism of her disgraceful 'hate crime' censorship bill


Link Here4th September 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
Nicola Sturgeon has suggested disgraceful censorship proposals could be overhauled to listen to concerns that new laws will diminish freedom of speech.

The plans have faced criticism from a range of voices over worries that freedom of speech will be eroded. The Scottish parliament's justice committee received almost 2,000 submissions in response to a consultation on the bill. The committee's convener has described this response as unprecedented.

Even the police criticised the plans. The Scottish Police Federation has said ministers have grossly underestimated policing costs associated with the bill.

Sturgeon said in a speech to the Scottish Parliament:

I want to give an assurance that we will listen carefully. Freedom of speech and expression is fundamental in any democracy.

There's really good reasons why we need to make sure we've got laws in this country that are capable of tackling hate crime because it is pernicious and horrible and we should have zero tolerance to it.

We've got to do that in a way that respects and protects people's legitimate freedom of speech and expression. As with so many really important things we do in society, these are not always straight forward things -- they involve striking balances and they involve getting into the real detail of how we get this right.

We're at the start of a legislative process. I think the right thing to do is to listen to concerns, to go through the committee scrutiny process and if there are amendments we need to make to reassure people who have legitimate concerns, we certainly give an undertaking to do that.

We hear these concerns and we want to navigate a way through this bill that does what we want to do around hate crime but doesn't leave people thinking the legitimate right to freedom of speech is being compromised.

 

 

Newspaper censors...

The Daily Mail reports that the UK government intends to include newspaper websites in its proposed internet censorship regime


Link Here30th August 2020
Full story: Online Harms White Paper...UK Government seeks to censor social media
Up until now, the UK government has always indicated that newspaper websites would not be caught up in the new internet censorship regime proposed in the Government's Online Harms white paper.

However it now seems that the government has backtracked lest every websites claims to be a news service.

The Daily Mail reports that Julian Knight, chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, has written to Culture Minister John Whittingdale over the proposed laws, after Home Office lawyers claimed that granting a publishers exemption' would create loopholes. One source close to the ministerial arguments over the proposed laws said:

Government lawyers are arguing that the publishers exemption would allow just anyone to claim it, so for instance you would have The Isis Times being able to distribute beheading videos.

The Tory MP Julian Knight told Whittingdale that Ministers in both DCMS and the Home Office should resolve the impasse by allowing an exemption for authenticated and reliable news sources.

The Government has yet to respond, amid concerns that any action may be delayed by wrangling over legislation to stop harmful online material and fears that antagonising powerful American-owned online platforms might jeopardise post-Brexit trade talks with the US.

 

 

Offsite Article: Scotland's hate crime bill would stifle free speech...


Link Here28th August 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
The law could criminalise people making jokes or discussing religion and would do more harm than good. By Index on Censorship

See article from indexoncensorship.org

 

 

Won't somebody think of the children!...

The ICO publishes its impossible to comply with, and business suffocating, Age Appropriate Design Code with a 12 month implementation period until 2nd September 2021


Link Here12th August 2020
Full story: ICO Age Appropriate Design...ICO calls for age assurance for websites accessed by children
The ICO issued the code on 12 August 2020 and it will come into force on 2 September 2020 with a 12 month transition period.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham writes:

Data sits at the heart of the digital services children use every day. From the moment a young person opens an app, plays a game or loads a website, data begins to be gathered. Who's using the service? How are they using it? How frequently? Where from? On what device?

That information may then inform techniques used to persuade young people to spend more time using services, to shape the content they are encouraged to engage with, and to tailor the advertisements they see.

For all the benefits the digital economy can offer children, we are not currently creating a safe space for them to learn, explore and play.

This statutory code of practice looks to change that, not by seeking to protect children from the digital world, but by protecting them within it.

This code is necessary.

This code will lead to changes that will help empower both adults and children.

One in five UK internet users are children, but they are using an internet that was not designed for them. In our own research conducted to inform the direction of the code, we heard children describing data practices as nosy, rude and a bit freaky.

Our recent national survey into people's biggest data protection concerns ranked children's privacy second only to cyber security. This mirrors similar sentiments in research by Ofcom and the London School of Economics.

This code will lead to changes in practices that other countries are considering too.

It is rooted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that recognises the special safeguards children need in all aspects of their life. Data protection law at the European level reflects this and provides its own additional safeguards for children.

The code is the first of its kind, but it reflects the global direction of travel with similar reform being considered in the USA, Europe and globally by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This code will lead to changes that UK Parliament wants.

Parliament and government ensured UK data protection laws will truly transform the way we look after children online by requiring my office to introduce this statutory code of practice.

The code delivers on that mandate and requires information society services to put the best interests of the child first when they are designing and developing apps, games, connected toys and websites that are likely to be accessed by them.

This code is achievable.

The code is not a new law but it sets standards and explains how the General Data Protection Regulation applies in the context of children using digital services. It follows a thorough consultation process that included speaking with parents, children, schools, children's campaign groups, developers, tech and gaming companies and online service providers.

Such conversations helped shape our code into effective, proportionate and achievable provisions.

Organisations should conform to the code and demonstrate that their services use children's data fairly and in compliance with data protection law.

The code is a set of 15 flexible standards 203 they do not ban or specifically prescribe 203 that provides built-in protection to allow children to explore, learn and play online by ensuring that the best interests of the child are the primary consideration when designing and developing online services.

Settings must be high privacy by default (unless there's a compelling reason not to); only the minimum amount of personal data should be collected and retained; children's data should not usually be shared; geolocation services should be switched off by default. Nudge techniques should not be used to encourage children to provide unnecessary personal data, weaken or turn off their privacy settings. The code also addresses issues of parental control and profiling.

This code will make a difference.

Developers and those in the digital sector must act. We have allowed the maximum transition period of 12 months and will continue working with the industry.

We want coders, UX designers and system engineers to engage with these standards in their day-to-day to work and we're setting up a package of support to help.

But the next step must be a period of action and preparation. I believe companies will want to conform with the standards because they will want to demonstrate their commitment to always acting in the best interests of the child. Those companies that do not make the required changes risk regulatory action.

What's more, they risk being left behind by those organisations that are keen to conform.

A generation from now, I believe we will look back and find it peculiar that online services weren't always designed with children in mind.

When my grandchildren are grown and have children of their own, the need to keep children safer online will be as second nature as the need to ensure they eat healthily, get a good education or buckle up in the back of a car.

And while our code will never replace parental control and guidance, it will help people have greater confidence that their children can safely learn, explore and play online.

There is no doubt that change is needed. The code is an important and significant part of that change.

 

 

The Scottish government is deliberately intending to stifle free speech...

With a disgraceful new bill whose public consultation has just closed


Link Here 26th July 2020
Full story: Scotland stifles free speech...Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill Hate Crime & Public Order (Scot) Bill
A public consultation has closed on changes to Scotland's hate crime laws that will diminish free speech even further.

The plans to make it a criminal offence to stir up hatred, criticise or insult anyone based on their age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.

The bill will massively step up the definitions of what people are not allowed to stay lest it be considered insulting to easily offended identity groups, particularly sensitive religions. The bill also extends from people's words into the possession of material that might be considered critical of sensitive identity groups.

The disgraceful bill has been opposed by many particularly the most effected, like newspapers.

Opposition to the bill has united the Catholic Church and the National Secular Society in opposition to the plans - along with academics, playwrights and newspaper columnists who all say they fear the proposed legislation will pose a threat to their freedom of speech. For example comedians could become too frightened to dare make a joke about a Scotsman, an Englishman and an Irishman walking into a bar.

The public were invited to make their views known to the Scottish parliament's justice committee before midnight on 24 July.

Amanda Millar, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said:

It was right that laws provide a clear message that hatred should have no place in our society. However, we have significant reservations regarding a number of the bill's provisions and the lack of clarity, which could in effect lead to restrictions in freedom of expression, one of the foundations of a democratic society. We have real concerns that certain behaviour, views expressed or even an actor's performance, which might well be deemed insulting or offensive, could result in a criminal conviction under the terms of the bill as currently drafted.

Scottish Labour criticised the offence of stirring up hatred and accused ministers of failing to learn the lessons of the repealed Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. The party's justice spokesman James Kelly said:

There is a significant divergence from similar law in England and Wales where intent is required for a person to be criminalised for behaviour which another finds insulting. Under the current proposals, the law here would not require this intent to be present - which sets an alarming legal precedent and could result in the criminalisation of expressions of religious views.

In its submission to Holyrood's Justice Committee, the Scottish Newspaper Society warned that it contained highly dangerous measures which pose a serious threat to freedom of expression in its broadest sense. The organisation's director, John McLellan, said it had the potential to provoke a string of vexatious complaints against journalists and columnists, which could then lead to police investigations. He raised further concerns about provisions against communicating insulting material:

It would also be an offence to distribute it, which potentially could see newspaper delivery boys and girls, or shops, fall foul of the law.

Allowing courts to direct the destruction of material had echoes of darker times and could lead to the banning of books or censorship of the internet, he warned.

He added that JK Rowling, who has recently faced a deluge of criticism from transgender rights activists after she expressed her views online, would almost certainly have seen her subjected to a police investigation had the proposed law been in force.

 

 

Problem gamblers seek to recover their losses...

Age Verification companies win a judicial review of the government's decision to shelve its flawed porn censorship scheme


Link Here 17th July 2020
Full story: BBFC Internet Porn Censors...BBFC: Age Verification We Don't Trust
A coalition of age verification companies have won the first round of their legal action against the Government in a bid to force ministers to introduce a shelved internet porn censorship scheme that would provide the companies with an income.The companies launched an appeal last year, saying they developed software that was never used.

A judge ruled that age verification companies, backed by children's charities, have an arguable case that the Culture Secretary exceeded her powers by deciding not to implement the ban, which had been voted for by Parliament .

The ruling means the claimants can now take the case to a judicial review, which could overturn the Government's decision.

Plans to introduce an age verification scheme were shelved in October last year, perhaps because the law did not provide any provision for keep very dangerous ID and porn browsing data private and safe. At the time, ministers said the age verification scheme as defined in the Digital Economy Act 2017 would be superceded by forthcoming Duty of Care legislation.

In court, the Government argued that ministers had not exceeded their powers and that circumstances had radically altered since the porn ban legislation was originally passed.


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